They stop at Mars. There’s no reason not too. Xan’Toch wants this relationship to work, it’s been many years since there was a major intergalactic failing. Xan’Toch is not keen to repeat last time and the humans’ request to stop at a world that is devoid of life is not the weirdest request Xan’Toch has received.
The human is young and goes by the name Carrie. Xan’Toch has been informed that she is a female or a “woman” as she prefers. She carries with her a bag filled with old transmitters and outdated equipment. Her space suit is clearly higher-tech, almost laughably so. She stands at a viewing port, intense in a way Xan’Toch cannot understand. What could be on this planet that is worth stopping for?
They land not far from the coordinates Carrie gave them. Curious and wanting to take notes on this strange new species, Xan’Toch asks to accompany Carrie on her mission. She agrees but seems more focused on getting out fo the airlock.
The bag seems to be heavy, and though Xan’Toch offers, Carrie says she will carry it herself. Xan’Toch makes a note–Humans are either possessive of things they deem theirs or stubborn. Either one could become an issue if they are pressed in the wrong way. Xan’Toch has been smoothing inter-species relationship for far too long to let details like that slip by. Though humans, by and large, are confusing and seem…disinclined in fitting into the categories Xan’Toch has organized most species into, every bit of information is important.
Xan’Toch remains silent on their journey. They are heading for a ridge, and for the life of them, Xan’Toch cannot tell what the difference between this ridge and every other ridge on the planet is. But they keep their mouth shut, in fear of insulting Carrie. This species is one of many with confusing religions and Xan’Toch does not wish to insult a human god of some sort.
She seems to know where she’s going, though how Xan’Toch doesn’t know how. Humanity has said they’ve never sent people past their moon. Carrie slows, struggling up the steeper terrain. Xan’Toch, of a hearty species, helps where they can.
“There!” Carrie cries, sliding down a rock face. Xan’Toch winces–surely they know the dangers of damaging their space suit? Carrie doesn’t seem to care and is very busy dusting off–something. Xan’Toch approaches, confused. They cannot figure out what Carrie is cleaning off. They catch a reflection and suddenly the thing Carrie has found no longer seems to be a rock.
It’s mechanical and old. Xan’Toch cannot name some of the parts that make it up but Carrie seems to know what to do. Which doesn’t make sense. Humans, as primitive as they are, have some very interesting and impressive bit of engineering. Whatever Carrie has found is outdated even to humans.
“What is this?” Xan’Toch asks, hoping they haven’t crossed some invisible line.
“Opportunity,” Carrie replies, fixing hoses and replaces what looks like old solar panels.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” Xan’Toch says, after several moments.
Carries laughs, and shoots Xan’Toch what they know now to be a ‘grin.’ Something indicative of human happiness. “This is Opportunity,” She says, gesturing to the old machine, almost obscured by the dust and sand. “She was an exploratory Rover back in the early 2000s, gathering information on Mars. She was lost after a major dust storm came through, it knocked her solar panels and communications out. Her last broadcast….” Carrie looks back at the machine, apparently called ‘Opportunity.’ “She reported that her batteries were low….and that is was cold. After fifteen years, Opportunity finally stopped. She finally rested among the stars.”
Xan’Toch has lost the thread of this conversation. Carrie sounds…fond, sad even. Like this machine meant something more than exploration and science. Like it had been a friend, lost to a planet unknown. It doesn’t make sense. It is simply a tool.
“You look confused,” Carrie comments but doesn’t seem surprised. “It’s…silly, but I grew up listening about Oppy’s adventures. Seeing her discoveries and getting excited when she found something new. When we lost contact…I cried. I wasn’t alone. Losing Oppy felt like losing a friend. She took thousands and thousands of pictures and took so many samples–she-she was here when we couldn’t be. We left a mark on Mars before we could stand on it. And now I’m here and…” Carrie swipes a hand across what looks to be an optical device.
Xan’Toch has no words. Has to previous experience with this. from the sounds of it, humanity….bonded with this machine. Sent it off into space, followed its discoveries and mourned its final malfunction.
“I can bring her back. Whether it’s just back online or back to Earth I don’t know yet. But…I had to stop. I had to see her, to let her know we hadn’t forgotten.”
What Carrie’s saying doesn’t make any sense to Xan’Toch. But what she’s saying is genuine, full of feeling. They do not know what to say or how to articulate it back to their superiors. So Xan’Toch does the only thing they can.
They walk over and start digging Opportunity out of…her grave.
The smile Carrie gives them is worth it.